The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its class of 2017 on Saturday with Ladainian Tomlinson and Kurt Warner heading the class. Joining them to be inducted into Canton this upcoming summer are Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis, Jason Taylor, Kenny Easley and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
— Pro Football HOF (@ProFootballHOF) February 5, 2017
It wasn’t without controversy, as six-time Pro Bowler Terrell Owens missed out in his second year of elgibility. In fact, Owens, who ranks second in NFL history in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns, didn’t even finish among the top-10 vote-getters.
For his part, the always talkative Owens took exception to missing out on Canton.
HOF is a total joke. Honestly, doesn't mean anything to me to get in beyond this point. https://t.co/wJJ8vVSp9d
— Terrell Owens (@terrellowens) February 5, 2017
As it is, now that the class of 2017 has been announced, it’s never too early to look at who should earn a ticket to Canton in 2018. Here’s our projection for the six members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2018.
Terrell Owens, wide receiver
Let’s start with the obvious. How Owens wasn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer is about as perplexing of a question as there is in the NFL today. Owens finished his 15-year NFL career ranked second in league history in receiving yards, third in receiving touchdowns and eighth in receptions. Those are Hall of Fame numbers right there. Not a single objective person can deny this.
The issue with Owens is voters have taken into account his standoffish attitude with the media and on-field antics during a largely combative NFL career. Whether that’s fair or not is up to interpretation. But consider this: Owens was never involved in an off-field issue, has a clean record and was active within the communities he played during a tremendous on-field career.
If we’re going to start docking players for having combative relationships with the media, that surely will continue to limit who gets in. In fact, there’s very little doubt that some of today’s stars would be directly impacted if this is the stance voters continue to take.
Now, in his third attempt at collecting the game’s top honor, we project Owens will get in. The push back from those around the NFL, fans included, for him not getting in this time around will surely impact voters. As the issue continues to unfold, voters will be forced to consider what Owens did on the field. And statistically speaking, he’s one of the top-four or top-five receivers in NFL history.
Randy Moss, wide receiver
If Owens is being docked for a less-than-stellar relationship with the media, surely Moss might find it hard to get into Canton in his first year of eligibility. See. That’s the issue here. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. This is why we are projecting that two of the most-talented and enigmatic receivers in NFL history will hear their names called in the same year.
Moss finished his brilliant 15-year career with four first-team All Pro and six Pro Bowl appearances. He tallied 1,000-plus receiving yards nine times and led the league in receiving touchdowns five different times. All this equated to a No. 3 all-time ranking in receiving yards and a No. 2 mark in receiving touchdowns.
There’s really nothing else we need to say here as it relates to Moss’ resume. He’s proven himself to be among the most-productive pass catchers in NFL history. That’s not up for debate.
Ray Lewis, linebacker
Imagine the drama. Two diva receivers and a linebacker with a past that includes a murder investigation being inducted into Canton in the same year. Lewis was originally charged with murder stemming from an incident at a nightclub in Atlanta back in 2000. Though, he ultimately reached a plea deal on misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges.
For the younger crowd, this was a situation that filled up the news cycle around the NFL. It will also lead to some questions regarding Lewis and whether he should be inducted into the Hall.
We’re not here to make judgements about off-field conduct unless the conversation turns to convicted rapist Darren Sharper. In reality, Lewis was never convicted of a felony, which makes this entire off-field drama pretty moot.
On the field, it’s hard to imagine a better linebacker in the history of the NFL. A team leader in his 17-year career with the Ravens, Lewis earned 13 Pro Bowl and seven first-team All Pro honors. He recorded 100-plus tackles 10 times and picked off a record 31 passes from the linebacker position. Did we mention that Lewis also earned two Super Bowl titles and a Super Bowl MVP award?
When all was said and done, Lewis ended his career with the second-most tackles in NFL history. The former first-round pick from Miami (F) is surely a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Brian Dawkins, safety
There’s only two true safeties in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That will definitely change after both Dawkins and John Lynch narrowly missed out on the honor this year. Both should find themselves collecting that Hall of Fame jacket when the summer of 2018 comes calling.
During a 16-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos, Dawkins earned nine trips to the Pro Bowl and four first-team All Pro honors. That’s a solid resume right there.
Though, it was Dawkins’ coverage ability that should help him with Hall of Fame voters. The free safety could cover more area of the field than any other player at his position in the history of the league. That’s not an overreaction. He practically acted the part of a safety net in the defensive backfield throughout his career.
As the only player in NFL history to record a sack, interception, forced fumble and touchdown reception in a single game, Dawkins’ versatility is what made him into one of the top defensive backs in the history of the game. This should lead to a nice little jacket for him this time next year.
John Lynch, safety
The new San Francisco 49ers general manager has now been passed up for the Hall of Fame a total of five times. In fact, neither Lynch nor Dawkins finished in the top 10 in voting this year. That’s likely more to do with the voters picking between the two, especially considering only two true safeties have ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Expect this to change in 2018.
Lynch was an elite-level talent both at Stanford and throughout his 15-year NFL career that spanned stints with both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the aforementioned Broncos. Like fine wine, Lynch got better with time. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in each of his final four seasons in the league, bringing his career total to nine Pro Bowl trips. The hard-hitting safety also earned two first-team All Pro honors.
Like Dawkins, what makes Lynch such a dynamic candidate was his versatility. He played strong safety throughout his 11 years in Tampa Bay, earning five Pro Bowl trips in the process. Once on Denver, Lynch moved to free safety and earned a Pro Bowl trip each season.
Lynch ended his career with 26 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, 13 sacks and over 1,000 combined tackles. Those are definitely Hall of Fame numbers right there.
Don Coryell, head coach
Coryell legimately created his own offense as the head coach of San Diego State from 1961-72. “Air Coryell,” as it would end up being called, didn’t seem like a fit for the professional ranks. Remember, this was at a time in the NFL’s history that the run game dominated offenses throughout the league. To go pass-heavy during this era just didn’t seem to make much sense.
But as Coryell made his transition from college football to the NFL with the then St. Louis Cardinals in 1973, it became readily apparent that his scheme would work at the next level. St. Louis won double-digit games in three of his five seasons as the team’s head coach. This came after the franchise failed to win double-digit games for a quarter century.
Though, it wasn’t Coryell’s brief tenure in St. Louis that made him an innovator. Instead, it came when he teamed up with the San Diego Chargers and Dan Fouts in 1978. San Diego would finish in the top-seven in scoring in each of his first five seasons. And when all was said and done, the Chargers ranked No. 1 in passing offense in seven of his nine seasons as the team’s head coach.
Now, over 30 years after coaching his final game, multiple NFL teams use some variation of the “Air Coryell” system. This is just how big of a game changer the late-great Coryell was. And it should earn him a trip to Canton.